Debating Regime Legitimacy in Contemporary China: Popular Protests and Regime Performances, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Debating Regime Legitimacy in Contemporary China

Popular Protests and Regime Performances, 1st Edition

Edited by Suisheng Zhao


250 pages

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This comprehensive volume is a three-part study of whether the Chinese political system has maintained a significant degree of regime legitimacy in the context of rising domestic discontent, in particular the popular protests against socio-economic inequality and environment degradation. Part I presents the scholarly debate on the theoretical refinement and empirical measurement of regime legitimacy in contemporary China. Part II focuses on the challenges to regime legitimacy of the increasingly widespread popular protests and civil activism. Part III examines the regime’s responses to these challenges, including coercive repression, adaptation, and economic performance. This book finds that, while repression can hardly stop popular protests – and often backfires – economic performance legitimacy is increasingly difficult to be maintained. The only way out is the adaptation to the changing domestic and international environment.

The chapters in this collection were originally published in the Journal of Contemporary China.



legitimacy; in particular, the various case studies highlight the complexity of the issue of political

legitimacy within China… [p]enetrating China’s contemporary debate on regime legitimacy, and to understanding how the political system has succeeded in maintaining its legitimacy despite the rise of domestic discontent and protests.

CLAUDIA ZANARDI, PhD Candidate, King’s College London, Department of War Studies

Table of Contents

Part I: The Debate on the Regime Legitimacy in China

1. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Legitimacy? Contributing to a new research agenda Peter Sandby-Thomas

2. Political Legitimacy in Contemporary China Revisited: theoretical refinement and empirical operationalization Gunter Schubert

3. The Debate on Regime Legitimacy in China: bridging the wide gulf between Western and Chinese scholarship

Jinghan Zeng

Part II: The Challenge of Popular Protests to the Regime Legitimacy

4. Political Process and Widespread Protests in China: The 2010 Labour Protest Ou Yang Ray

5. Disorganized Popular Contention and Local Institutional Building in China Feng Chen and Yi Kang

6. Pollution, Institutions and Street Protest in Urban China Yang Zhong, Wonjae Hwang

7. Pushing the Envelope for Representation and Participation: The Case of Homeowner Activism in Beijing Yousun Chung

8. Request for Environmental Information Disclosure in China: An Understanding from Legal Mobilization and Citizen Activism Xinhong Wang

Part III: Meeting the Challenge: Repression, Adaptation and Performance Legitimacy

9. Grand Mediation and Legitimacy Enhancement in Contemporary China: the Guang’an Model Jieren Hu, Lingjian Zen

10. Performance Legitimacy, State Autonomy and China’s Economic Miracle Hongxing Yang, Dingxin Zhao

11. The Sichuan Earthquake and the Heavenly Mandate: Legitimizing Chinese rule through disaster discourse Florian Schneider, Yih-jye Hwang

12. Repression Backfires: Tactical Radicalization and Protest Spectacle in Rural China Kevin J. O’Brien, Yanhua Deng

13. Patrolling Harmony: Pre-emptive Authoritarianism and the Preservation of Stability in W County Yan Xiaojun

14. Disorganized Popular Contention and Local Institutional Building in China Feng Chen and Yi Kang

About the Editor

Suisheng Zhao is Professor and Director of the Center for China-US Cooperation at Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, USA, and founding editor of the Journal of Contemporary China.

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